Israel raids Al Jazeera’s offices, says it will not give in to Hamas

Israel is prepared to temporarily halt the war in Gaza to gain the release of the hostages held there, but will not agree to the Hamas demand to end the war completely, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu also said on Sunday that his government had ordered the closure of the local offices of Qatar-based news channel Al Jazeera, with which his administration has had a long-running feud.

“We are not ready to accept a situation in which the Hamas battalions come out of their bunkers, take control of Gaza again, rebuild their military infrastructure, and return to threatening the citizens of Israel in the surrounding settlements, in the cities of the south, in all parts of the country,” Netanyahu said on Sunday.

Israel and Hamas have been negotiating for weeks through mediators towards a potential truce that would include the release of hostages held in Gaza and of Palestinian prisoners held in Israel.

Giving in to Hamas’ demands would be a “terrible defeat” for Israel, a huge victory for Hamas and Iran, and would project a “terrible weakness” to Israel’s friends and enemies alike, Netanyahu said, according to a statement released by his office.

This weakness would distance any further peace agreement, Netanyahu said, in an apparent reference to potential normalisation of ties with Saudi Arabia.

Humanitarian aid is airdropped over northern Gaza, as seen from an undisclosed location in Israel on Sunday. Photo: EPA-EFE

“This weakness will only bring the next war closer, and it will push the next peace agreement further away,” Netanyahu said. “Alliances are not made with the weak and defeated, alliances are made with the strong and victorious.”

It was unclear where Netanyahu’s comments will leave the potential for a halt in the war, which is approaching the seven-month mark, as Israel’s military continues to prepare for a potential assault on Rafah in southern Gaza.

Also, the government “unanimously decided: the incitement channel Al Jazeera will be closed in Israel”, Netanyahu said on X. Al Jazeera’s offices in East Jerusalem were raided on Sunday.

“Al Jazeera reporters harmed Israel’s security and incited against soldiers,” Netanyahu said. “It’s time to remove the Hamas mouthpiece from our country.”

“There will be no freedom of speech for the Hamas trumpets in Israel,” Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi said in a separate joint statement with Netanyahu.

“Al Jazeera will be closed immediately and the equipment will be confiscated.

“We finally are able to stop Al Jazeera’s well-oiled incitement machine that harms the security of the country,” Karhi said.

Palestinians have started returning to the city of Khan Younis in Gaza despite the heavily damaged infrastructure. Photo: via dpa

The extraordinary order, which includes confiscating broadcast equipment, preventing the broadcast of the channel’s reports and blocking its websites, is believed to be the first time Israel has ever closed a foreign news outlet.

Al Jazeera went off Israel’s main cable provider in the hours after the order. However, its website and streaming links across multiple online platforms still operated on Sunday.

The network has reported the war nonstop since the militants’ initial cross-border attack on October 7 and has maintained 24-hour coverage in Gaza amid Israel’s grinding ground offensive that has killed and wounded members of its own staff.

While including on-the-ground reporting of the war’s casualties, its Arabic arm often publishes verbatim video statements from Hamas and other militant groups in the region, drawing Netanyahu’s ire.

Ismail Haniyeh, the Doha-based political bureau chief of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas. File photo: AFP via Getty Images/TNS

Al Jazeera issued a statement vowing it will “pursue all available legal channels through international legal institutions in its quest to protect both its rights and journalists, as well as the public’s right to information”.

Israeli media said the order allows Israel to block the channel from operating in the country for 45 days.

The ban did not appear to affect the channel’s operations in the occupied West Bank or Gaza, where Israel wields control but which are not sovereign Israeli territory.

In a statement on Sunday, Hamas condemned the Israeli government order, calling on international organisations to take measures against Israel.

Rather than trying to silence reporting on its atrocities in Gaza, the Israeli government should stop committing them
Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch

The Foreign Press Association in Israel criticised the order.

“With this decision, Israel joins a dubious club of authoritarian governments to ban the station,” it said. “This is a dark day for the media.”

Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch, said the Israeli order was “an assault on freedom of the press”.

“Rather than trying to silence reporting on its atrocities in Gaza, the Israeli government should stop committing them,” he added.

The United Nations emphasised the importance of press freedom. In New York on Sunday, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said: “A free press provides an invaluable service to ensure that the public is informed and engaged.”

Soon after the government’s decision, Cabinet members from the National Unity party criticised its timing, saying it “may sabotage the efforts to finalise the negotiations and stems from political considerations”. The party said that in general, it supported the decision.

The Al Jazeera television network offices in Ramallah, occupied West Bank on Sunday. Photo: AFP

Meanwhile, Hamas political chief Ismail Haniyeh on Sunday accused Netanyahu of sabotaging efforts by mediators.

Qatar-based Haniyeh said the prime minister wanted to “invent constant justifications for the continuation of aggression, expanding the circle of conflict, and sabotaging efforts made through various mediators and parties”.

He said Hamas – which is considered a terrorist organisation by the US and European Union – was bringing “seriousness and positivity” to current talks.

Hamas conducted a series of contacts with mediators and with resistance factions, and held intensive meetings and consultations before sending its delegation to Cairo, he said.

The group was still keen to reach a comprehensive agreement that guarantees the withdrawal of Israel forces and achieves a serious prisoners/hostage exchange deal, Haniyeh added.

Lebanese strike

Earlier on Sunday, an air strike blamed by Lebanon on Israel killed four civilians and wounded two others in a village in south Lebanon, prompting Hezbollah to fire rockets back across the border.

Israeli warplanes targeted Mays al-Jabal, causing “massive destruction”, Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency reported on Sunday. Israel has not commented so far.

Hezbollah said it fired “tens” of rockets at Kiryat Shmona in response to Israel’s attack, the militant group’s Al-Manar TV reported.



KFC Malaysia temporarily closes some outlets amid anti-Israel boycott

KFC Malaysia temporarily closes some outlets amid anti-Israel boycott

Israeli forces have been exchanging cross-border fire with the Lebanon-based Hezbollah almost daily since the start of the campaign against Hamas in October. Tensions appear to have intensified with Iran-backed Hezbollah since Israel and Tehran began attacking each other directly last month.

Tens of thousands of Israelis and Lebanese have fled their homes near the borders because of continuing cross-border fighting.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse, Associated Press, dpa



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